News Listen About Contact New Album
Posted on Jun 14th, 2009
English Gigs, Brian Gittings, The Devil’s Babies


(Soundtrack: Wayne Jarrett “Showcase”)
We just did a handful of gigs around England. Which always raises the question “why do gigs around England?”. The problem being that once we pay for a van and a driver and a cheap hotel, we lose a load of money. If you can get someone to drive for free, and you own a van, and are comfie sleeping on someone’s floor, then you can make it work. I didn’t want to put the guys through that this time, so it cost a packet – in fact the money that I had managed to save by working for the last couple of months all went on these few gigs. By playing in your home-town, which for us happens to be London, you can at least break even, but venturing anywhere that needs a stop-over costs a lot, so we certainly did not do these gigs for the money.
If we were doing them to “build our following” then that would be akin to painting the Forth Bridge with a toothbrush.  Although at least then the bridge would eventually get painted…  Perhaps it would be more akin to painting the Forth Bridge with a toothbrush and using paint which washes off in the rain. Maybe if we were out gigging most nights we could make some inroads, but a handful of shows around each album is never going to make a difference.
If we were using it as an excuse to get together and have a laugh with the band, then it definitely worked – we had a good old time listening to Bill Withers in the van, drinking too much beer, analysing life and eating chips. But then we could have got together to do all that and had a good night out in London for a fraction of the cost.
We did enjoy playing the songs though, and even though there were hardly any people at some gigs, and at some shows the crowd were just talking while we played, we still felt like we played well and were proud of what we were doing. Those moments, and at least one great gig made it worthwhile. After all, does a band really exist if it doesn’t play together in front of an audience? And it may be a chiche, but there is no substitute for playing live in order to sort songs out, to move them forward.
When we were in Liverpool it seemed there was live music blasting out of every bar. There were also several 90s nights on, which I notice are starting to appear. Up to ten years after a decade is over, it seems that it lacks a real personality compared to previous decades, then it gradually comes into focus until about twenty years after, it gains nostalgia value and you find yourself liking things that you hated at the time. It is happening now with the 80s. Bands are now making records trying to deliberately recreate the 80s. Just like they did in the 80s with the 60s, when Mod or The Smiths or The Las all owed huge debts to the 60s. Or in the 70s bands were fixated with the 50s. I guess it is about playing with the sounds you grew up with, or records that your parents liked. So 90s nights currently seems a little odd, but will become commonplace. What will there be in ten years time? Noughties nights? Which is bad enough, but what ten years after that? What do you even call that decade?
Andy did a ridiculous thing of playing our gig in Leeds, then getting the first train to London the next morning to rehearse with Weller, then getting the train to Liverpool to play a festival show with us at 5, then a doing a gig of his own at 9, then another show with us at 10 then another solo show at 11, then up first thing to get back to London to do a gig with Weller the next day. Inevitably, this ambitious plan ended with him missing our tea-time show and arriving back in Liverpool as he was due to go onstage at 9 – apart from the tea-time show it all went well though. That was a rotten set – us playing songs with no bass – though I suspect it would have been rotten anyway. Our 10 o’clock show was fab though.
Bridie and I went to a comedy show in Portobello the other night. Stewart Lee was excellent as ever, but the main attraction for me was Brian Gittings. Few people have reduced me to hysterics in my life: Peter Sellers as Clouseau, Ted Chippington, Harpo Marx, Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and a theatre group from Brighton called “Cliffhanger” spring to mind, but it doesn’t happen often. My very favourite, Larry David, causes me to get over-excited and thrilled by the brilliance of “Curb”, but never has me in hysterics. We have seen Brian Gittings before, and as soon as he comes on I start crying with laughter, and can’t stop until he goes off. It is extremely painful actually, but I suppose it is good for me.
We had a good time visiting Lille – it has a lovely old quarter for tourists, but feels very much alive as a town. It is currently over-run by giant black babies called the devil’s babies – see the photo. Now back in West London the temperature has shot up. We are back to drinking red stripe and photgraphing ducks – except Philbert, the unphotographable duck du jour. This is when the Uxbridge Road comes into its own – it all makes sense on hot summer days, and especially hot summer nights. Hence I am playing reggae loud!


Hi Shirly, Really enjoyed the gig at Leytonstone. Only recently heard of your music and great to catch up on the previous albums. You might remember my girlfriend striding over boldly for your autograph whilst I shyly waved in the distance! From one Yorkie exile to another in gratitude for a great evening and excellent music! Darren x

• Posted by Darren at 11:19 pm on Jun 14th, 2009

Wow, your analysis of the economics of performing live is rather depressing but entirely understandable.

For my own part, I can only say that seeing you live in Bristol many moons ago cemented a love affair with your music (and lyrics obviously) which still has me spreading the word countless years later.

• Posted by Simon B at 10:29 am on Jun 15th, 2009

You’ve prompted good memories of a Cliffhanger gig late one Friday night in Edinburgh at the festival, when the act before was running over and Cliffhanger played to the crowd on the stairs waiting to get in to the venue….wow, where was that memory lurking! Also prompted bitter sweet memories of meeting an ex girlfriend in the crowded Edinburgh streets and being ‘lost’ by her when she obviously thought it wasn’t such a good idea!

• Posted by scribblingtyke at 11:19 am on Jun 15th, 2009
Leave a comment »